Monday, May 25, 2009

10 Things You Didn't Know About Chocolate

10 Things You Didn't Know About Chocolate



1. Origins

The ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations in Central America were the world's first chocolate lovers. Cocoa trees grew wild in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon basin and the Maya and Aztecs used the beans to make a much-prized spicy drink, which they called "chocolatl".


2. Meaning

In Nahuatl, the Aztec language, chocolatl means "bitter water". A related Nahuatl word, cacao (source of the English word cocoa), refers to the bean itself.


3. Chocolate in Europe

It was the Spanish Conquistador, Don Hernán Cortés, who first realized the commercial value of chocolate. He brought cocoa beans back to Spain in 1528 and very gradually the custom of drinking chocolate spread across Europe. In 1657 the first of many drinking-houses where the new liquid-chocolate was enjoyed appeared in England.


4. Eating chocolate

Until the early Victorian times chocolate was exclusively for drinking, then a technique for making solid "eating" chocolate was devised. The inventor of "eating chocolate" is unknown but the first solid chocolate was sold in 1847 by Fry & Sons of Bristol.


5. Milk and white chocolate

In 1875 a Swiss manufacturer, Daniel Peters of Vevey, Switzerland, produced the first milk chocolate bar by successfully finding a way to combine chocolate and milk. White chocolate, which is technically not chocolate as it does not contain any cocoa liquor, was not invented until the 1930s.


6. Swiss chocolate

The Swiss consume more chocolate than any other population in the world. On average, each person consumes around 9 kg (20 lbs) each year! Perhaps this isn't really surprising—famous Swiss chocolate makers include Rodolphe Lindt, Henri Nestlé, Philippe Suchard, Jean Tobler (founder of the Toblerone brand), and Charles Amédée Kohler (the first to add hazelnuts to chocolate).


7. Chocolate boxes

Richard Cadbury introduced the first ever chocolate box in 1868. He also introduced the first ever chocolate boxes for Valentine's Day, thereby starting the tradition of giving chocolate as a token of love on February 14.


8. Making chocolate

The harvesting of cocoa pods is very labour intensive. The pods are split open by hand and the beans needed to make chocolate are removed to be fermented and dried. They are then sent to chocolate manufacturing companies, where they are roasted and ground in large mills until they become a thick brown liquid. This cocoa mass is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products.


9. Producing chocolate

African countries harvest about two-thirds of the total world output of cocoa beans. At the start of the twenty-first century the Côte d'Ivoire was the world's greatest cocoa-bean producing nation.


10. Health

A chemical in chocolate—theobromine—is toxic to dogs and cats. For humans, chocolate contains only a small amount of nutrients and has a high fat content. However, the presence of antioxidants in dark chocolate means that it has recently been promoted for its health benefits.


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